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Sun Oct 12, 2014, 10:43 PM

Deconstructing the Ben Affleck-Sam Harris cage fight

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/about-thinking/201410/deconstructing-the-ben-affleck-sam-harris-cage-fight

by Guy P. Harrison

Don’t you love it when actors and neuroscientists scrap? There certainly was a good round of action last week when Ben Affleck and Sam Harris squared off on Real Time, Bill Maher’s HBO show. The dustup clearly touched a cultural nerve, sparking widespread coverage and commentary. Unfortunately, virtually everything that has been written and spoken about it missed the mark and added little to the important issues raised. (If you missed the Affleck-Harris blowup, view a clip here)

The problem with the aftermath is that most people seemed to have simply picked a side in lieu of listening and thinking. The result is that 99 percent of the commentary I’ve seen boil down to either, “Ben Affleck is an idiot”, or “Sam Harris is a bigot”. Few seem to have recognized that both men hold sensible positions on very important points and that the key problem that night was a failure to communicate, nothing new when religion is being discussed.

Affleck was right to be indignant. There really are many irrational bigots who slander and condemn every Muslim for the actions of some Muslims. He is justified in vigorously attacking such a stupid position and all who are shallow enough to promote it. But Affleck tripped up in thinking that Harris is one of these people. I am very familiar with Harris’s work and have never seen reason to suspect him of being a racist or bigot. And I pay close attention to such things, having written a book about the concept of race and the problem of racism. I'm confident that Sam Harris is not a racist. Here is one of the first things he said during his appearance on Real Time:

“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every critique of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people and that’s just intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck failed to listen and immediately demonstrated Harris’s point by calling the critique of Islam “gross and racist”. This was, of course, “intellectually ridiculous”. I am very familiar with Harris’ work over the years and he does not attack “all Muslims”. In fact, he has consistently called for moderate, peaceful and sensible Muslims to push back against those who oppress, terrorize and kill in the name of Islam.


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Reply Deconstructing the Ben Affleck-Sam Harris cage fight (Original post)
Alittleliberal Oct 2014 OP
Kalidurga Oct 2014 #1
okasha Oct 2014 #2
Act_of_Reparation Oct 2014 #3
cbayer Oct 2014 #5
trotsky Oct 2014 #6
cbayer Oct 2014 #4

Response to Alittleliberal (Original post)

Sun Oct 12, 2014, 11:53 PM

1. I watched that clip it was obvious

they were mostly talking past each other and there was a lot of common ground. Of course there are people now calling for Mahr's head and Harris's head over the episode saying they are bigots. But, the greater point many people miss is that things that overlap in conservative Christianity and conservative Islam are often protected in Islam. Criticism of conservative Islam is seen as bigotry by both Muslims and people who are supposed to be champions of liberal ideals.

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Response to Alittleliberal (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 01:03 AM

2. Harris sycophant defends Harris.

Film at ten.

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Response to Alittleliberal (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:27 AM

3. Personally, I thought the whole thing was comedic

A bunch of privileged white guys sitting around a table discussing a religion they've never been a part of. How compelling.

I say, put Reza Aslan in a cage with a few members from the Ex-Muslims of North America. Now, THAT would be interesting.

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Response to Act_of_Reparation (Reply #3)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:31 AM

5. Reza Aslan wrote a good analysis of this,

which was pretty much dismissed by the partisans who can see no wrong when it comes to Harris and Maher.

But I think you make a good point about the three white guys discussing a religion they are not a part of.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #5)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 11:21 AM

6. You should really stop with that kind of shit, cbayer.

There is not a person here I've noticed that "can see no wrong when it comes to Harris and Maher." Such ridiculous extremist talk does nothing to further discussion. Please stop it.

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Response to Alittleliberal (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:30 AM

4. I think this is a solid and thoughtful analysis and worth the read.

Most people have taken a side, but it seems more based on their love/hate of Harris and Maher than the actual substance of the debate.

It is harder to take a nuanced approach and recognize that there were wins and losses on both sides.

But whatever it is, it certainly did garner a lot of attention, something all three of these men feed off of.

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